When Tabbassum Mumtaz came to Ericka Garza with the option to lead Au Bon Discomfort as brand president, she was both equally enthusiastic and cautious.
“Tabbassum was my franchisee at Yum Brand names,” stated Garza, and she understood he was a potent operator. Nonetheless, she did her due diligence to make guaranteed she would have the sources and assist needed to deal with the revitalization of a manufacturer which is improved arms many occasions considering that its founding in 1978.
Mumtaz and his Ampex Makes, a longtime franchisee of Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Extensive John Silver’s and 7-Eleven, acquired Au Bon Ache from Panera Bread in July 2021 in a offer that the Wall Road Journal claimed integrated about $60 million in assets. The deal’s price wasn’t disclosed.
“I was not naïve to the fact that it would be a large problem,” reported Garza, who was director of growth at Pizza Hut and just before that led intercontinental franchise improvement at Boston Pizza. Although the workforce she inherited “had extraordinary passion,” she realized Au Bon Soreness would demand “a total turnaround to modernize our cafes and get again to 2019 sales.”
The French bakery-café chain, which a ten years back experienced more than 200 spots in the U.S., now has 116 domestic retailers to go along with 67 in Thailand. In advance of the acquisition, outlets have been closing and some had been becoming converted to Panera eating places. Advancement, claimed Garza, “hadn’t been a focus and it hadn’t happened in many, numerous years.”
Garza put in her first months on the job meeting franchisees, who she mentioned love the brand but hadn’t had the option to increase their footprint. Ampex “made some pretty huge commitments” to assist franchisees, including in marketing and in the progress of a new prototype with a refreshed glimpse and truly feel. The new streamlined style and design with grab-and-go items up entrance along with refrigerated products and a espresso bar is aimed at much better serving prospects in commuter, healthcare facility and college configurations, where by Au Bon Soreness has a big existence. There is also kiosk ordering stations, and Garza noted this calendar year Purdue College will get the 1st retailer that’s entirely self-checkout.
Au Bon Pain opened two corporate spots in 2022, the initially additions under Ampex Makes, and Garza reported far more corporation-owned stores are in the pipeline. It also procured 4 franchised shops in have to have of focus, a additional demonstration, Garza claimed, of Ampex’s determination. Elsewhere on the franchise entrance, the brand signed a number of new agreements in 2022, including a 10-device deal with existing franchisee Sid Sohail for continued progress in the Northeast.
Au Bon Pain’s big existence in non-classic settings intended the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing disappearance of targeted traffic experienced an outsize impact on the brand’s income. Product sales continued to bounce back again in 2022, Garza reported, and “we’re truly viewing the fruits of issues opening again up.”
“Our objective is to get back to pre-COVID sales—and we’re quite close,” Garza continued, however she declined to share quantities. Method income had been an approximated $188 million in 2021, down from $289 million in 2019, according to Technomic.
A person income driver has been an emphasis on buyer support, which Garza credited to Michael Aronson, a longtime franchisee who arrived on as chief functioning officer and is concentrating his consideration on schooling. Menu adjustments are also aspect of the turnaround equation, with the brand wanting to café workers for inspiration.
“Innovation experienced been a struggle simply because of supply chain and not seeking to provide in new SKUs,” said Garza, so the organization produced its “Sandwich Madness” contest to interact café staff and invite them to create new recipes utilizing only existing elements. Regionalization of the menu is also yielding benefits, this sort of as in the Miami space, where by Au Bon Soreness improved some of its choices to cater to the significant Latino population, “and it made a remarkable distinction in our gross sales and organization.”
Tapping into the Latino population, the two as customers and possible franchisees, is a target for Garza. She chairs the Hispanic Latino Franchise Management Council, fashioned very last 12 months by the International Franchise Association, and said one particular of her plans at Au Bon Soreness is to build a path to franchise possession for staff members. “My plans, our aims are to be additional inclusive,” she reported, and reveal the alternatives in franchising for people today of assorted backgrounds.